The Marriage Ref

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She told another woman to dispose of her late husband's prosthetic leg in order to spare the feelings of her current spouse. The show invites its panel of "experts" to help analyse real-life disputes between married couples, mostly for laughs. Tom Papa, the host and official "Marriage Ref", makes the final call. In one case, Mindy Goldman was offering sexual favours to Alan, her husband of 28 years, if he would clean up their messy basement. Then Susan and David Harper, married for three years, were seen in their house squabbling over possessions left over from their past relationships.

Susan wanted her husband to get rid of the sofa where David and his ex-wife might have had intimate moments, while David complained about Susan hanging on to the ashes and prosthetic leg of Don, her late husband.

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The Marriage Ref

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Journal Media does not control and is not responsible for the content of external websites. Switch to Mobile Site. Sites: TheJournal. This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. As you might expect given the medium, the conflicts being dealt with here are hardly toilet-seat or toothpaste-tube related. No, the roadblocks these couples are ostensibly trying to navigate are a lot, um, weirder. Susan wants her husband to get rid of couches from a previous marriage because she doesn't like the thought that Don had sex with his ex on them … but she's unwilling to part with the prosthetic leg of her deceased first husband.

Paula withholds sex from Alan, her husband of 28 years, until he agrees to clean up the house. Tony claims that Laura treats their five-foot-long pet iguana better than she does him—including bathing it in the tub, making it gourmet salads and dressing the lucky lizard in hats and scarves.


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Amber is upset with Jamie for spending more time with his giant pumpkins than he does her. And on and on it goes. It's a silly, often tabloid-esque read: made for reality TV collection of marital minefields. Which begs the question: Who would you want to resolve such critical conundrums?

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Maybe a high-powered team of proven marriage counseling professionals like … Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa and Cedric the Entertainer? If you're a regular reader of TMZ —or even if you're not—it's obvious that Hollywood celebrities are probably not the first folks you'd go to for marriage advice. And in Season 2, The Marriage Ref seems in on its own joke.

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When panelist Ricky Gervais says he's been "living in sin" with his partner for 25 years "What's the point in getting married? But judge they do, poking fun at struggling couples each show features three pugilistic pairs and sometimes themselves along the way. After these star-studded tribunals dissect and mock the merits of each aggrieved party's case, they render individual verdicts.

'Marriage Ref' is a stand-up kind of guy

Once a "winner" has been chosen in each case, the three righteous spouses stand before the studio audience, who then votes one of them, in the words of Papa, the "rightest of the right. In theory, all of these reality TV shenanigans are ultimately pro-marriage in their message. The show takes pains to illustrate how much the aggrieved hubbies and wives love each other minus that one thing , and most of the conflicts seem to be played for laughs. Likewise, most couples appear to take the celebrities' verdict with all the gravitas or lack thereof it deserves.

But for some couples, appearing on The Marriage Ref may be more serious—and far more damaging.

According to The New York Post , former contestant Howie Kohlenberg blames the dissolution of his year marriage on the show. After he and his wife, Christine, were guests on the program, she became obsessed with fame and eventually ran away with a Canadian producer, he says. Clearly, then, The Marriage Ref isn't necessarily a boon for marriage—and that's true for folks watching at home, too.

The show's bizarre, voyeur-friendly conflicts are matched only by the equally bizarre jokes and advice dished out by each episode's guest celebs. One man has already been "advised" to trade sex with his wife for sex with a prostitute … or his mother.


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You know things have wandered far off the beaten path when Gervais observes, "This is the weirdest show I've ever been on. But as Papa says, that's kind of the point.

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But it's fun to do, and someone wins a prize. Jim Wasserman is upset that his wife, Jaib, invites her mother from Thailand to stay for months at a time. The panelists crack jokes hinging on the heritage of both Jim who's Jewish and Jaib who's Thai. Amber Johnson can't believe her husband, Jamie, spends more time with his giant pumpkins than he does with their family.